That’s according to UFC President Dana White, who confirmed the initial incident between Chimaev and Holland started the problems that only escalated after he went on stage to start the press conference at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
According to multiple people who witnessed the incident, Chimaev initiated the melee when he kicked Holland backstage. Chimaev’s alleged attack is what then erupted into a much larger issue as security scrambled to get everything under control. The people who spoke to MMA Fighting about the incident asked to remain anonymous because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
“Yeah [it was Khamzat Chimaev and Kevin Holland that started it],” White told reporters backstage. “There were multiple things going on at the same time. It wasn’t just one thing that erupted and it happened. There were multiple things going on at the same time.”
Chimaev and Holland had exchanged insults in interviews and social media in the weeks leading up to UFC 279, and they reportedly got into a near-altercation at UFC Vegas 21 in 2021.
“So there was security over there, there was no security over there,” White continued. “There was no security over there cause everybody was dealing with the other thing and once it all started erupting, it was just a s*** show.”
White blamed a lack of security along with the overwhelming number of people backstage that led to the situation spiraling out of control. He added former UFC fighter turned athlete manager Tiki Ghosn actually helped to calm things down by getting in between the warring teams.
“If it wasn’t for Tiki, we would have been in trouble,” White said. “Tiki took a couple for the team and he’s not even on the team. Tiki took a couple of water bottles to the head, a couple slaps, kicks. Thanks Tiki.”
Multiple sources also confirmed that once Holland went on stage to start the press conference along with his opponent Daniel Rodriguez that a second altercation exploded that involved Chimaev, Diaz and their respective teams.
It’s not clear if any additional fighting broke out, but water bottles were thrown between Chimaev and Diaz’s camps, according to sources, which was at least part of the reason why White ultimately decided to cancel the press conference before things got more out of hand.
“When you know that you have guys that don’t like each other, you make sure that they’re isolated, you have plenty of security around,” White explained. “You know how Nate and Khamzat are, they could have some words and we have enough people here to deal with it.
“What we didn’t have enough people for was everybody to start fighting. When everybody starts fighting and there was more than just fighting going on that security was dealing with. We weren’t prepared.”
White promised security would be beefed up for future press conferences, and he also planned to address the number of people allowed to accompany the fighters to events like this one.
Ultimately, White stated that nobody was hurt during the melee and the fights would move forward as scheduled on Saturday night. He added he didn’t plan to hand down any punishments to the fighters involved in the various altercations, but he absolutely wanted to prevent anything like this from happening again.
“This is what we do,” White said. “This is the business that we’re in. This is the fight business. These things happen.”